By Russell Zazueta
Opening night for “Den of Thieves” at the Black Box Theatre proves director Rodney Lloyd Scott has a talent to keep an audience alive with suspense.
When ingredients such as stupidity, guns, money, sex and desperation are mixed together to create a story about thieves, the biggest risk in the plot is to not get caught red-handed.
The show takes the audience back to New York in the mid 1990s, when Nirvana posters were hung on every living room wall and compact-discs were used with every portable stereo.
Paul, played by Johnny Matthew Ortiz, is a sponsor of a recovery program for kleptomaniacs and shows up to his client’s cluttered apartment to check up on Maggie, played by Jasia Alyezza Topete.
She is donned in a flannel jacket and dress and looks like a wreck with her eyeliner dripping down her cheeks.
Much to the audience’s delight, Scott chose a Bronx-style dialogue that gives the actors a comedic edge in silly situations.
There is something funny about Maggie’s personality.
She inadvertently reveals that she’s a compulsive eater after she embarrassingly continues to pull two tomatoes, parmesan cheese, candy and an air freshener out of her purse.
Given how bad Maggie’s kleptomania is, the audience is left to decide whether everything Maggie owns in her apartment is actually stolen property.
Her obsession reminds us that stealing is immoral while Paul appears to be her guardian angel.
He is a former kleptomaniac himself, and is 682 days clean.
The first half of the show also introduces the audience to Maggie’s ex-boyfriend Flaco, played by Joe Robert Mejia, as he clobbers Maggie’s apartment door, demanding her to let him in.
He is the out-of-control-type and bad influence that Maggie cannot afford to be around. The audience will be amuzed by his plot to steal $750,000 from a safe in a nightclub.
He conspires with his sexy and voluptuous current girlfriend Boochie, played by Raeya Young, as well as Paul and Maggie.
When brave and desperate people are money-hungry, they make moronic decisions no matter what the risk.
The actors do a magnificent job in convincing the audience that they are no masterminds of crime, but instead are idiots who buy into a gross fantasy, which is all the making for a comedy.
Scenes with mobsters who are nasty, eager and fearless startle the audience with a raging chainsaw and loud gunshots.
A warning appears in the beginning pages of the program about the use of loud noises.
The audience finds humor in their act, as they should, because who can take a mobster’s whiny voice seriously? There are risque scenes that the audience will never see coming. Boochie, tied to her chair, tries to cast a sexual spell on Paul.
She promises she will perform a sexual favor if he volunteers to die. This scene will have the audience laughing and gasping and showing signs of gusto.
It doesn’t look good for the four tied-up conspirators, and how this situation ends depends on the mob boss, Big Tuna, played by Mitch Feldman. His presence is powerful and steals the show.
This is a great and simple live show to experience with friends and loved ones. The show, however, may not be suitable for kids because of its explicit content.
“Den of Thieves” was originally produced in April of 1996.
The performance’s estimated run-time is about an hour and a half to two hours long, with a 10 minute intermission. Matinee show times are at 2 p.m., Oct. 21-23. Evening shows are at 8 p.m Oct. 21 and 22.
Tickets can be purchased at the door for $12.